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Title: No Popery : John Cormack and the use of history
Author: Wheeler, John Smith
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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The thesis sets out to show that the appearance and performance of John Cormack and the Protestant Action Society (PAS) in Edinburgh in the 1930s was not an aberration but a phase in the development of the national psyche. From its creation by Cormack in 1933 the Society made an extraordinary impact on Edinburgh municipal politics, winning nearly one third of the votes cast at the 1936 election and yet just a year later it was fading away. The movement had its roots in the history of Scotland, particularly since the reformation of religion in 1560, in which the seventeenth century struggle to maintain the Presbyterian form of the reformed religion is an important influence. This history, in its traditional form more oral and folkloric than academic, with that of the immigration of Irish Roman Catholics in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, is seen as an essential element in the formation of the mindset of people in Edinburgh which made it possible for the PAS to have the success it had, albeit very temporary. It was used to legitimise and justify the Society's anti-Roman Catholic political campaign that was given a degree of respectability by the actions in the 1920s of Presbyterian churches, led by the Church of Scotland, in pressing for a curb on immigration from the Irish Free State, actions that were essentially anti-Roman Catholic. A more immediate factor in the rise of the party was the economic and social condition of the working people in the city. Unemployment had been a problem in the 1920s. It rose to unbearable levels in the early 1930s. Poor housing was a serious problem and several wards were designated slum clearance areas. Another influence was the perceived aggression of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland generally but particularly in Edinburgh where a new Archbishop appointed in 1929 was thought by some to be unduly assertive in promoting his faith in this most Presbyterian city. A traditional view of history in which the Church of Rome posed an enduring threat to the nation was a prime propaganda tool of the PAS and considerable space is given to setting out this version of the nation's past in order to place the PAS in its historic context. An appreciation of the indigenous population's view of the more recent conflicts resulting from Irish immigration is also necessary to an understanding of the PAS appeal. The mobilisation of this version of history, taken together with the harsh economic and social conditions in which many people lived at the time, provided the elements for which John Cormack was the catalyst to enliven Edinburgh's municipal politics in the 1930s. With the return of more prosperous times and perhaps time to reflect on the basics of PAS policy the party lost its support as quickly as it had been gained. The advent and experience of the 1939-45 war with the homogenising effect of facing a common enemy and the decline of religion as a social and political force in the second half of the twentieth century renders it unlikely that there could be a return of sectarian strife in which No Popery' could be an effective slogan.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available